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Over the last ten years the Athlone Sewage Works has been upgraded multiple times at a cost of millions of rands. These upgrades were necessary. In mid-2000s the sewage plant was known as the Athlone ‘pong’ because of the strong toilet smell. The plant was operating over its capacity of 105 Mm3 with too much water coming in and too little resident time to effectively treat the water. The discharge of contaminated water from the sewage works contains high concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorous, and bacteria. This water is discharged into the Black River. Excess nutrients provide liquid fertilizer which stimulate the growth of water hyacinth and other aquatic weeds. The State of the Rivers Report (2005) described the Black River water quality as “unacceptable” and that the condition of the river as a “detriment to the region when it could be an asset”.
Read more: Athlone Sewage Works and Black River Quality